Changing Places
Enabling dynamic, evolving places that respond to the complexities of life.
The Changing Places group proposes that fundamentally new strategies must be found for creating the places where people live/work, and the mobility systems that connect them, in order to meet the profound challenges of the future. We are investigating how new models for urban architecture and personal vehicles can be more responsive to the unique needs and values of individuals though the application of disentangled systems and smart customization. We are developing technology to understand and respond to human activity, environmental conditions, and market dynamics. We are interested in finding optimal combinations of automated systems, just-in-time information for personal control, and interfaces to persuade people to adopt sustainable behaviors.

Research Projects

  • ARkits: Architectural Robotics Kits

    Kent Larson, Luis Alberto Alonso Pastor, Ivan Fernandez, Hasier Larrea and Carlos Rubio

    In an urbanized world, where space is too valuable to be static and unresponsive, ARkits provide a robotic kit of parts to empower real estate developers, furniture manufacturers, architects, and "space makers" in general, to create a new generation of transformable and intelligent spaces.

  • BoxLab

    Kent Larson and Jason Nawyn
    The PlaceLab was a highly instrumented, apartment-scale, shared research facility where new technologies and design concepts were tested and evaluated in the context of everyday living. It was used by researchers until 2008 to collect fine-grained human behavior and environmental data, and to systematically test and evaluate strategies and technologies for the home in a natural setting with volunteer occupants. BoxLab is a portable version with many of the data collection capabilities of PlaceLab. BoxLab can be deployed in any home or workplace.
  • CityFARM

    Special Interest group(s): 
    Camille Richman, Elaine Kung, Emma Feshbach, Jordan Rogoff, Mathew Daiter, Kent Larson, Caleb Harper, Edward Platt, Preethi Vaidyanathan and Sophia Jaffee

    By 2030, nine billion people will populate the globe and six out of every 10 will live in cities. The future of global food production will mandate a paradigm shift to resource-leveraged and environmentally sound urban food-growing solutions. The CityFARM project explores building-integrated agriculture and environmentally optimized growing. We are exploring what it means—technologically, environmentally, and socially—to design industrially scalable agricultural systems in the heart of urban areas. Through innovative research, and through development of hydroponic and aeroponic systems, diagnostic and networked sensing, building integration, and reductive energy design, CityFARM methodology reduces water consumption by 90 percent, eliminates chemical pesticides, and reduces embodied energy in produce by a factor of four. By fundamentally rethinking "grow it THERE and eat it HERE," we can eliminate environmental contaminants and increase access to nutrient-dense produce in our future cities.

  • CityHOME: 200 SQ FT

    Kent Larson, Hasier Larrea, Daniel Goodman, Oier Ariño, Phillip Ewing

    Live large in 200 square feet! An all-in-one disentangled robotic furniture piece makes it possible to live comfortably in a tiny footprint—not only by magically reconfiguring the space, but also by serving as a platform for technology integration and experience augmentation. Two hundred square feet has never seemed so large.

  • CityOffice

    Kent Larson, Hasier Larrea, Luis Alonso, Carlos Rubio

    Architectural robotics enable a hyper-efficient, dynamically reconfigurable co-working space that accommodates a wide range of activities in a small area.

  • CityScope Barcelona

    Kent Larson, Waleed Gowharji, Carson Smuts, J. Ira Winder and Yan Zhang

    The "Barcelona" demo is an independent prototype designed to model and simulate human interactions within a Barcelona-like urban environment. Different types of land use (residential, office, and amenities) are configured into urban blocks and analyzed with agent-based techniques.

  • CityScope BostonBRT

    Ryan Chin, Allenza Michel, Ariel Noyman, Jeffrey Rosenblum, Anson Stewart, Phil Tinn, Ira Winder, Chris Zegras

    CityScope is working with the Barr Foundation of Boston to develop a tangible-interactive participatory environment for planning bus rapid transit (BRT).

  • CityScope Hamburg

    Kent Larson, Ariel Noyman and J. Ira Winder

    MIT CityScience is working with Hafencity University to develop CityScope for the neighborhood of Rothenburgsort in Hamburg, Germany. The goal is to create an interactive stakeholder engagement tool that also serves as the platform for joint research of modules for city simulation. Researchers are developing modules for walkability, neighborhood connectivity, energy efficiency, and economic activity, among others.

  • CityScope Mark I: Real-Time Data Observatory

    Ira Winder, Mohammad Hadhrawi, Carson Smuts, and Kent Larson

    Real-time geospatial data is visualized on an exhibition-scale 3D city model. The model is built of LEGO bricks, and visualization is performed by an array of calibrated projectors. Through computation, GIS data is "LEGO-tized" to create a LEGO abstraction of existing urban areas. Data layers include mobility systems, land use, social media, business activity, windflow simulations, and more.

  • CityScope Mark II: Scout

    Ira Winder

    The CityScope "Scout" prototype integrates augmented reality with real-time mathematical modeling of geospatial systems. In practice, the technology transforms any tabletop into a canvas for land-use planning and walkability optimization. Users perform rapid prototyping with LEGO bricks and receive real-time simulation and evaluation feedback.

  • CityScope Mark III: Dynamic 3D

    Ira Winder, Grady Sain

    The Dynamic 3D prototype allows users to edit a digital model by moving physical 3D abstractions of building typologies. Movements are automatically detected, scanned, and digitized so as to generate inputs for computational analysis. 3D information is also projected back onto the model to give the user feedback while edits are made.

  • CityScope Mark IV: Playground

    Ira Winder and Ariel Noyman (SA+P)

    Playground is a full-sized, tangible 3D environment for rapid prototyping of building interventions in Kendall Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Through projection mapping and onscreen displays, users can receive feedback about the impacts of their interventions.

  • CityScope Mark IVa: Riyadh

    Ira Winder

    We recently led a workshop in Saudi Arabia, with staff from the Riyadh Development Authority, to test a new version of our CityScope platform. With only an hour to work, four teams of five professionals competed to develop a redevelopment proposal for a neighborhood near the city center. The platform evaluated their designs according to energy, daylighting, and walkability.

  • CityScope Mark IVb: Land Use/Transportation

    Kent Larson, Carson Smuts and Ira Winder

    CityScope MarkIVb is programmed to demonstrate and model the relationship between land use (live and work), population density, parking supply and demand, and traffic congestion.

  • Context-Aware Dynamic Lighting

    Ronan Lonergan, Shaun Salzberg, Harrison Hall, and Kent Larson

    The robotic façade is conceived as a mass-customizable module that combines solar control, heating, cooling, ventilation, and other functions to serve an urban apartment. It attaches to the building "chassis" with standardized power, data, and mechanical attachments to simplify field installation and dramatically increase energy performance. The design makes use of an articulating mirror to direct shafts of sunlight to precise points in the apartment interior. Tiny, low-cost, easily installed wireless sensors and activity recognition algorithms allow occupants to use a mobile phone interface to map activities of daily living to personalized sunlight positions. We are also developing strategies to control LED luminaires to turn off, dim, or tune the lighting to more energy-efficient spectra in response to the location, activities, and paths of the occupants.

  • Measuring Urban Innovation

    Talia Kaufmann, Kent Larson, Dan Harple and Victor Kashirin

    Cities are hubs for innovation, characterized by densely populated areas where people and firms cluster together, share resources, and collaborate. In turn, dense cities show higher rates of economic growth and viability. Yet, the specific places innovation occurs in urban areas, and what the socioeconomic conditions are that encourage it, are still elusive for both researches and policymakers. Understanding the social and spatial settings that enable innovation to accrue will equip policymakers and developers with the metrics to promote and sustain innovation in cities. This research will measure the attributes of innovation districts across the US in terms of their land-use configurations and population characteristics and behaviors. These measurements will be used to identify the factors that enable innovation, with the goal of developing a methodological approach for producing quantitative planning guidelines to support decision-making processes.

  • Mobility on Demand Systems

    Kent Larson, Ryan C.C. Chin, Chih-Chao Chuang, William Lark, Jr., Brandon Phillip Martin-Anderson and SiZhi Zhou
    Mobility on Demand (MoD) systems are fleets of lightweight electric vehicles at strategically distributed electrical charging stations throughout a city. MoD systems solve the "first and last mile" problem of public transit, providing mobility between transit station and home/workplace. Users swipe a membership card at the MoD station and drive a vehicle to any other station (one-way rental). The Vélib' system of 20,000+ shared bicycles in Paris is the largest and most popular one-way rental system in the world. MoD systems incorporate intelligent fleet management through sensor networks, pattern recognition, and dynamic pricing, and the benefits of Smart Grid technologies include intelligent electrical charging (including rapid charging), vehicle-to-grid (V2G), and surplus energy storage for renewable power generation and peak sharing for the local utility. We have designed three MoD vehicles: CityCar, RoboScooter, and GreenWheel bicycle. (Continuing the vision of William J. Mitchell.)
  • Persuasive Cities

    Agnis Stibe, Ryan C. C. Chin and Kent Larson

    Persuasive Cities research is aimed at advancing urban spaces to facilitate societal changes. According to social science research, any well-designed environment can become a strong influencer of what people think and do. There is an endlessly dynamic interaction between a person, a particular behavior, and a specific environment. Persuasive Cities research leverages this knowledge to engineer persuasive environments and interventions for altering human behavior on a societal level. This research is focused on socially engaging environments for supporting entrepreneurship and innovation, reshaping routines and behavioral patterns in urban spaces, deploying intelligent outdoor sensing for shifting mobility modes, enhancing environmentally friendly behaviors through social norms, introducing interactive public feedback channels to alter attitudes at scale, engaging residents through socially influencing systems, exploring methods for designing persuasive neighborhoods, testing agent-based models and simulations of behavioral interventions, and fostering adoption of novel urban systems.

  • Persuasive Electric Vehicle

    Kent Larson, Michael Lin and Agnis Stibe

    Persuasive Electric Vehicle (PEV) addresses sedentary lifestyles, provides energy-efficient mobility, and takes advantage of existing bicycle lanes. Designed as a three-wheeler for stability, with a cover to protect from rain and the option for electric assist, PEV makes biking compelling for various demographics. Various persuasive interventions are displayed through user interaction with smartphones to facilitate pedaling behavior. Influential strategies are designed for both the interior and exterior of PEV. For example, an interior display can show how many previous riders have actually pedaled while riding a particular PEV. The exterior of PEV can change color depending on whether a rider actually pedals or not.

  • Persuasive Urban Mobility

    Agnis Stibe, Matthias Wunsch, Alexandra Millonig, Chengzhen Dai, Stefan Seer, Katja Schechtner, Ryan C. C. Chin and Kent Larson

    The effects of global climate change, in combination with rapid urbanization, have forced cities to seek low-energy and less carbon-intensive modes of transport. Cities have adopted policies like congestion pricing to encourage its citizens to give up private automobiles and to use mass transit or bicycling and walking. In this research study, we examine how persuasion technologies can be utilized to encourage positive modal shifts in mobility behavior in cities. We are particularly interested in studying the key persuasive strategies that enable, motivate, and trigger users to shift from high-energy to low-energy modes. This project is a collaboration between the MIT Media Lab and the Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT).

  • ViewCube

    Kent Larson and Carson Smuts

    A tangible device for real-time spatial movement and perspectival orientation between physical and digital 3D models.